Thanks to TJ Redig, host of the Scrivener Soapbox podcast and now first-time author, for writing the first ever guest post on my blog. Read on for a funny and insightful look at TJ’s experience of writing his first novel The Philosopher’s Load:
How on Earth did I end up writing The Philosopher’s Load, a novel chock-full of drugs, violence, awful antiheroes, even worse villains, and, most importantly, a man defecating substantial amounts of solid gold? I suppose you can blame graduate school, a lacklustre music career, and China Miéville.
I completed my undergraduate studies in 2009, right at the tail-end of the worst global recession since World War II. Trying to find work with a liberal arts degree was like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. With looming bankruptcy and no vocational prospects, I went the same way so many directionless degree-holders go: graduate school. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot and ended up with a great job, but my hobbies got shelved for a few years.
Throughout my undergraduate years, I played in a number of local rock bands. Fun fact, I earned most of my income during college by teaching guitar lessons. None of the bands did particularly well or netted me any substantial cash (a high-paying gig was one that covered gas, food, and drinks for the evening), but they provided me with a creative outlet. I didn’t realize how much I missed working the right-side of my brain until grad school was behind me.
I grew up reading lots of science fiction and fantasy, but eventually became bored of the recurring clichés. That’s where China Miéville comes into the story. For reasons I don’t remember, a neighbor gave me a box of books. Most of them were Stephen King or bland sword and sorcery, but there was also Perdido Street Station. Bas-Lag, the unique world from one of new weird’s most prolific writers, was a breath of fresh air. Suddenly drugs were A-Okay; the bizarre was beautiful; and the heroes didn’t have to be heroic, courageous, or even good. That’s when I first started kicking around the idea of writing a novel. And, of course, I wanted to write something weird.
The years prior to college and music were filled with lots of fiction writing, but none of it was published (or had any business ever being published). College had substantially improved my abilities while also teaching me some semi-useful things like, you know, the value of outlining and editing. That being said, I still pantsed the first draft and probably wouldn’t have finished the manuscript if I hadn’t; couldn’t kill the momentum. The second through umpteenth drafts were spent hammering the thing into shape. Honestly though, the story was decently structured even with an unplanned narrative featuring five POVs. This is pure speculation, but I think the countless hours spent crafting/running adventures for Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun had taught me a thing or two about plot progression. Finding a writing group that had some very talented authors (e.g., David Bruns and Aimee Kuzenski) and taking a bunch of classes at The Loft Literary Center helped too.
The Philosopher’s Load was actually completed about six months ago (editing was done by the wonderful Valle Hansen from Words as Words), but I first pursued traditional publishing, forcing the manuscript into purgatory. Long story short, I turned down an offer from a small press and had some back and forth with a perspective agent before deciding to self-publish.
That’s about the gist of it. Now go forth and read the first few pages of The Philosopher’s Load (a sample pops up when you click the cover image on Amazon). I promise you’ll be hooked.